By Sigurd Neubauer
With clear momentum from the 2022 Wimbledon, Nick Kyrgios, 27, handedly defeated Tommy Paul, 25, 6-3 6-4, at the Citi Open on Wednesday. The Australian, who exhibited throughout the game great finesse, and at times showmanship, was also quite the crowd-pleaser.
Next, he faces Reilly Opelka, 24, who defeated fellow American Denis Kulda, 29, 6-7 6-4 6-4.
While Kyrgios’ present ATP ranking is 63, Opelka’s is 17.
Kyrgios told reporters Wednesday about his desire to improve his rankings, saying: “I’m trying to get my ranking up a little bit more to a point where I don’t have to play two matches to be in the third round of a 500.”
“My ranking has never reflected my game,” he adds.
The Australian, who won the 2019 Citi Open, is emerging as a favorite to win the tournament this year as well. Considering his loss to Novak Djokovic, 35, at the 2022 Wimbledon final, analysts and tennis enthusiasts are inevitable looking ahead at the upcoming U.S. Open to determine whether the Australian will be able to reach the next level in the grueling world of men’s tennis.
Kyrgios has never won a Grand Slam, but clues to whether his game develops will be closely examined in the coming days at the Citi Open.
Kyrgios, who does not have a coach, also told reporters on Wednesday about his preparations, saying:
“I do my own research. I feel as if no one knows my game as good as myself. But I feel like there can be one little thing that my team says to me that can help me. I don’t need someone to tell me how to play tennis. I just need positive reinforcement at times to just give me feedback that I’m doing all right and I’m doing well, because I have had so much negativity in my career that sometimes I beat myself up way too much. I feel like just one little positive thing can do so much for my tennis.”
In reference to his tactics, Kyrgios adds: “Tactically I’m very switched on. There are players that have come to me for tactics against opponents. I feel like, yeah, I’m definitely my own coach out there. But it’s pretty simple. I just serve big and play on instinct and play big, and it works well.”
Meanwhile, Simona Halep of Romania, 30, currently ranked as WTA 16, withdrew on Wednesday during her game against Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya, 23, over injury. Prior to her withdrawal, Halep was a tournament favorite.
But in the world of women’s tennis, Daria Saville of Australia, 28, handedly defeated Jessica Pegula, 28, the Citi Open defending champion, 7-5, 6-4.
Despite Washington’s excruciating summer heat, Saville kept her composer and was laser focused throughout the game whereas Pegula demonstrated at times frustration with her own performance.
Saville was upbeat following her victory and expressed satisfaction with her recovery from injury, which included two surgeries.
“I feel like I’m playing really good tennis right now. I’m excited for more,” Saville told reporters afterwards, adding that she was in the tournament to win.
“I feel like everyone’s attitude is, Hey, I’m here to win the tournament. And I’m no different…I want to go as far as possible, and I am hoping to win the whole thing.”
Saville wasn’t the only underdog to prevail on Wednesday.
Emil Ruusuvuori, 23, doesn’t get recognized on the streets of his native Finland but is the country’s top male tennis player. He delivered a clear upset by defeating Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Ruusuvuori has reached a career high ATP ranking as 46 whereas his Polish opponent is ranked 11.
The game stood out for its beauty and elegance, with Ruusuvuori winning the match with a tiebreaker at the end.
It was their first match.
Unlike Saville, Ruusuvuori wasn’t bothered by Washington’s sweltering heat, he said but expressed pride in representing his native Finland. Next, he faces Mikael Ymer of Sweden, 23, currently ranked as ATP 115.
The game stood out for its beauty and elegance, with Ruusuvuori winning the match with a tiebreaker at the end